The Mystery of the “A-1 Reservoir,” SLR/IRL


Road Trip Series:

What is the A-1 Reservoir?

My recent Glades tour with former Pahokee mayor, JP Sasser, lasted seven hours, and one of the most unexpected things I got to see was Storm Water Treatment Area 3-4. I have read about the STAs, flown over the STAs, and have had many discussions with engineer, Dr Gary Goforth, who is an “Architect of the STAs,” but nothing prepared me for what I felt when I unexpectedly saw an STA from the ground, or the other mystery I’d learn about that day.

So just about when my tour of the Glades was over, JP looked at me and ask: “Do you want to see the where the big reservoir was supposed to be?”

“Yes!” I exclaimed.” The reservoir? Hmmm. I’d heard stories of “the reservoir” but I really didn’t get it. Why didn’t it get finished? And what is it today? And then of course river advocates like me are supporting  Senate President Joe Negron’s reservoir. What’s the deal with all these reservoirs? So confusing…

JP stopped the car, his blue eyes dancing: “We’ll have to drive south….”

“Please!” I begged, knowing I may never have this opportunity again.

So JP turned the steering wheel 180 degrees in the middle of all the sugar fields and headed south of Belle Glade on Highway #27– driving right along the historic North New River Canal that I did know something about.

We drove, and we drove, and we drove…through sugar field after sugar field. And then, there it was, to my right, what appeared to be blowing reeds surrounded by shallow sparkling waters, silver and white, reflecting clouds in a blue sky. Birds flew by. It was beautiful. Miles long. My eyes welled up, and I thought about how amazing it was to see water in this place…”It’s like…..the Everglades….”

We drove until we got to the SFWMD’s STA 3-4 entrance gate and I asked JP to pull over so I could get a picture. I was unsure…So to JP, a Glades local, this area has to with “the reservoir,” but here we are at an STA? As I was pondering, we drove further into Broward County and JP pointed out many new-looking pump stations to send water south. I couldn’t stop wondering about “the reservoir.”

When I got home I did some research.

I believe, in short, this is the story. Please chime in if you know more.

After lawsuit/s due to long-standing polluted EAA water impacting southern lands, and after “acts of the Legislature,” in the 1990s a “Settlement Agreement,” was obtained. Thus the state of Florida had to construct 32,000 acres of storm water treatment areas (STAs) in the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) to clean water leaving the EAA and going into Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park.

By 2000 the first of six had been constructed, and by 2004 the first water ran through. Thus the building of the STAs is associated with the law suits. At the same time, Congress was working legislatively on CERP, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. It was approved by Congress in 2000. But it was moving too slowly, so in 2006, Florida’s state legislature approved LOER (Lake Okeechobee and Estuary Recovery Plan) and under Jeb Bush chose 8 projects of CERP to “accelerate.”

One of the “Acceler 8” projects was the A-1 Reservoir. This reservoir was to be located basically right above STA 3-4 and it had three water components, one for agricultural use; one for the environment; and one for people.

Well time moves on and we are now post Jeb Bush, and into Charlie Crist’ governorship who in 2008 announced that the SFWMD would be negotiating with United States Sugar Corporation (USSC) to acquire as much as 187,000 acres of their land for Everglades Restoration! Lots of internal fighting. Environmentalist are excited about historic land acquisition, but many others are irritated that Everglades Restoration (CERP/Acceler 8) will be halted in order to purchase lands. Other sugar companies in the EAA are impacted as they share mills with USSC. US Sugar surprised everyone with this announcement. Not very nice! Some people in the ag industry are furious. Politics. Lawsuits. But such an opportunity!!! The Great Recession hits. The A-1 Reservoir and its 3 components are halted in order to possibly purchase the USSC lands.

Even more lawsuits ensue including one from the  Miccosukkee who want the reservoir completed as their lands are being depleted. Time is of the Essence.

The recession gets worse…the USSC land deal falls apart. Fewer lands are purchased. In 2010 Tea Party and “Jobs” Governor Rick Scott comes to power and negotiates with the Federal Government over of a law suit that included creating Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Phosphorus coming out of the EAA. “10 parts per billion” becomes the number. Some feel he sold out, others think it’s good.

In any case….the SFWMD now implements what the District had been planning as things were falling apart and money got tight, not a 3 part deep reservoir but rather a shallow Flow Equalization Basin, or FEB, in the A-1 reservoir lands above STA 3-4.

Thus the “Restoration Strategies,” law suit brought to the table by Rick Scott and State Legislature funded the A-1 Reservoir FEB and has more to come. What is important to note is that the A-1 FEB and the STAs were created to clean EAA sugar/agricultural runoff, due to lawsuits, not to hold, clean, and convey overflow Lake Okeechobee water that is destroying the estuaries…This is different.

And that’s why we environmentalist are talking about “a reservoir” today…a reservoir that would help the estuaries…because we don’t have one.

On the way home,  JP and I talked.

He is concerned that Negron’s 60,000 land purchase for a deep water reservoir could take so much land out of sugar production that one of the EAA’s four mills would not have enough cane to process, close, and put people out work. Pahokee cannot afford this…

“This stinks,” I thought  to myself. “Do we have to choose?” Why can’t people in the Glades and the Environment flourish? Everything is so confusing around here. This too should not be a mystery…

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2012 SFWMD presentation slide, Matt Morrison







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I noticed after writing this post that I did not report uses of reservoirs correctly thus I am adding this slide on 12-16-16, one day later. This slide shows what the reservoir compartments were proposed for in this 2012 SFWMD presentation slide by Matt Morrison. I had included “people/water supply” and this was incorrect. The entire presentation is linked below title EAA Storage Reservoirs, 2012. JTL

Timeline of Everglades Restoration DEP:

EAA Storage Reservoirs SFWMD Matt Morrison 2012:

A1 Reservoir history:


Acceler8 :

Restoration Strategies:


3 thoughts on “The Mystery of the “A-1 Reservoir,” SLR/IRL

  1. Well…not bad but some better info…..The Negron reservoir will not be a “deep water” reservoir for the same reasons the EAA reservoir (now the 16,000 acre FEB north of STA 3/4) is not…KATRINA….that storm showed that any reservoir over 4 to 6 feet had to be constructed with “dam quality” design….That adds billions of dollars to the cost of even small projects and is simply not going to be done on either the EAA nor any new reservoir.  The Negron reservoir, like the WCAs or any storage has to have some hydration at all times…and it does rain on them…to keep the woody plants from reducing the storage and creating a large maintenance cost…At best you can count on only three to four feet of “storage”….about 180,000 acre feet in the Negron one.  The new FEB replaces the plans for a 12 foot deep reservoir…16,000 acres….and is storing about 60,000 acre feet, but it will be kept mostly full to be sure the STAs are hydrated during the dry season and will not have much room for “storage” from the Lake during rain events. All of this adds up to a pittance versus what comes into the Lake in a few days during a rain event and would all be full quickly and the Lake rising….and the estuaries bombed as always. The EAA lawsuits were a stupid play by both sides of the issue.  The enviros actually sued to stop the project because they believed too much water was going to be held for urban and ag uses and not enough “dedicated” to the environment….while the Tribe sued to keep the project going because they wanted a way to better move water into WCA 3, and their home sites…Did not make much difference….The controversy over the US Sugar sale and Katrina ended that “debate” and the District and USACE moved on to make the best use of the area as possible…the FEB there today. What is constantly ignored in these discussions is the fact that CERP, even with the EAA deep water reservoir with about 250,000 acre feet of storage and the ASR wells with at least that amount (together about one foot off the Lake …if empty which they would never be) and all other CERP and MOD Waters projects complete…AND, even more important, with BOTH THE FEDERAL RESTRICTIONS AT THE TRAIL ELIMINATED, the 10 ppb P and CSSS restrictions, removed….gone….full open flow…(just what I keep calling for during rain events)  Even under these optimum conditions in 2030….The only reduction of the bombs to the estuaries would be about 30%…or one third at the very best….This was determined by the USACE for the old Lake O WRAC as requested by Ted Guy and me….a costly study over 36 years of all storms and rain events… Even back then, about 8 years ago, too many groups with agendas were misleading the people in Stuart and Ft. Myers (both the effected estuaries) stating that CERP was going  “save the estuaries”…..same situation today….Fact….CERP is directed at “saving” Everglades National Park…and will have at best a small help for the estuaries…AND with the deep water reservoir projects gone…and ASR down to no more than 100 wells is that many…The USACE study of “one third reductions” in bombs is too optimistic…plus both Federal restrictions remain at the Trail…. In other words….all of CERP will be done and the St. Lucie will still be devastated during rain events…and, the Negron 60,000 acre reservoir cannot make up for the over 500,000 acre feet of “lost” storage in the original plans for the deep water EAA reservoir and ASR….And, even if you shut down the farmers and constructed a 100,000 or even larger reservoir, as long as the water cannot flow freely under the Tamiami Trail the St. Lucie and Caloosahatche will be bombed as today….. Not what some want to hear….but plumbing facts are what they are….when you have an eight inch pipe going into the bathtub and a one inch pipe for a drain at the Tamiami Trail there has to be relief….and that relief is C- 43 and C-44.  You cannot just build a larger tub… Newton

  2. Jacqui, perhaps you could help get answers to a few questions? What is the depth of the reservoir proposed in Joe’s plan? Also, would it be possible to commit a portion of the jobs created in building that reservoir to any worker’s affected by a sugar refinery shutdown, perhaps along with a commitment to provide re-training.

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